Project leader Lani Hotch said Saturday she wants to open the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center in May 2015, despite the fact that she’s at keast $2.8 million short of funding to complete the building that is now framed up.

“I’m a believer. The Scriptures say, ‘According to your faith, be it unto you.’ I like to believe in big things,” Hotch said during a break in the action at the annual fundraiser dinner and auction for the project, held at the Klukwan ANS Hall. “I make (grant writers) Ann (Myren) and Cecily (Stern) nervous,” she said.

About $3.5 million has been spent on the project to date, and, under original plans, she would have to raise about another $4 million, but Hotch told the fundraiser audience she has some ideas to reduce costs.

Work by contractor Dawson Construction has come in under budget, saving the project about $200,000. That means, when crews finish closing in the building in December, they’ll also be able to complete interior wall framing and to rough-in electrical work. A glycol and tubing system, covered by a blanket, will protect the floor.

Hotch said she would also lop off elements of the project’s second phase, including a parking lot, landscaping and an eagle-viewing boardwalk, $1 million worth of work, not necessary for occupancy. That pares the price tag to $2.77 million.

Toward finishing the building, she’ll seek $400,000 in a National Endowment for the Humanities “challenge grant,” $375,000 from Art Place America, $500,000 from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, and $750,000 from Alaska’s Rasmuson Foundation.

That would still leave $599,000 to be raised. Hotch is hoping a chunk of that might come during an upcoming auction at Seattle’s Burke Museum Dec. 7. The first-time event will include art by some of the big names working in the Northwest Coast style, including Preston Singletary and Cheryl Samuel. Seattle is a hub for the art form.

“I think people will want to help with the project. It’s also a big thing that the center will have the Whale House artifacts available and open to the public. A lot of people into Northwest Coast Art are excited about that possibility,” Hotch said.

Part of what makes Hotch hopeful about completing the project is that her initiative seems to open other doors. The project recently received about $50,000 in a planning grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Then the agency notified her that an additional $25,000 was available for the project.

The project also recently received a $40,000 grant from the National Park Service for a Whale House interior exhibit. (The project recently received permission from the Ganaxetedi clan to display the Whale House carvings, considered among the finest pieces of Northwest Coast Indian art.)

Another $50,000 recently came from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for management of clan treasures, including cabinets, documentation and inventory, Hotch said.